The Party – Chapter 8: Captain Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 8: Capt Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn’s notebook chimed with an incoming message. It was from Commander Green. Flynn sighed. Report to the Colonel immediately. That was never good he thought as he rose from his desk and headed for the door.

At the Colonel’s office, the secretary, a Sergeant, sent him right in. Tyler missed the Colonel’s old secretary, Arlene. She’d been the Commander’s secretary for at least ten commanders and knew everything there was to know about the base and how to get things done but since the female purge two weeks ago, of course, a male had to be put in her place. Sergeant Boyle was good, but he had to look up everything and just wasn’t as efficient.

Flynn stopped in front of the Commander’s desk and saluted. “Captain Flynn reporting as ordered, Sir.”

The Commander looked up from his pad and returned the salute. “Good, Flynn. Have a seat.”

The Captain sat in one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk.

The Colonel tapped his notebook as he began. “Flynn. I have some good news.”

Flynn braced himself. In this political climate, he didn’t trust anyone to have good news.

“We’re restarting the promotion system and you’ve been selected to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”

Tyler thought for a minute his heart stopped. He consciously took a breath. “Thank you, Sir. I’m surprised.” He reached across the desk to shake the Commander’s hand.

“Glad to do it. With the promotion system down for so long, it made things like retention very difficult. If it had gone traditionally, you’d be an LC already, so Personnel just caught you up.” Congratulations, Captain.”

Tyler stood and saluted. “Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate this.”

The commander stood and returned the salute. “It’s effective the first of next month so you have time to update your uniforms.”

“This is great news, Colonel Green. My wife is going to be thrilled.”

“Good.” He sat back down. “That’s all, Captain.”

Flynn pivoted smartly and strode out the door, his mind bouncing from one thought to the next as we walked back to his office. Once there, he called his wife, Laura. She suggested they celebrate by going out to dinner and he agreed.

Word spread as the Colonel brought one officer in after another to tell them about their promotions. Not a lot of work was getting done as men traveled from one office to another to congratulate the promotees.

Outside at quitting time, Captain Dean Joyce met Flynn in the parking lot. “I hear congratulations are in order for you,” he said as he held out his hand.

Flynn shook it. “You too. Major, right?”

“Yeah. And you went straight to LC. That’s great. You must have passed the loyalty test.”

“Loyalty test?” Flynn felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach. “I didn’t take any test.”

“Remember your sister-in-law? That was the test. You handled her like any other undesirable. Even with her sobbing and begging, you kept your cool. The higher ups liked that.”

“Oh. Just being professional.”

Joyce clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Flynn. You’re going to be going places now.” He moved on to his car.

Flynn walked slowly to his car, watching Joyce get in and drive off. A loyalty test, that was what was going on? Zuri’s time in front of him was excruciating. He couldn’t sleep that night or for several nights he was so upset about having to pass his own brother’s wife into the system. He’d argued with his own wife, Laura, about it in strained whispers, because they both were sure their house was bugged.

He reached his car and got in, but just sat there, not even rolling down the windows to let the sun baked heat out. How many other things had he done that were loyalty tests? Tyler tried to think back but nothing in particular sprang to mind. Wait, he thought, right after the President announced he was President for Life, a lot of soldiers disappeared. Had the brass already begun purging the ranks even then? Other things sprang to mind. Orders tasking him to do crappy missions rounding up undesireables, coloreds, Jews, and activists. He nodded to himself. All of those were tests to see if he’d kick up a fuss.

Sweat began to trickle from his armpits. He turned the car key and rolled down the windows. The fresh air felt good. Tyler pulled on his seatbelt and put the car in drive then pulled out of his parking spot. And now, a promotion. Was the testing done? Was he deemed loyal? He’d have to talk to Laura about this. Let her know. She could be set up for tests, now that she was a housewife. Who knew which woman was working undercover, looking for malcontents? She’d have to be careful who she talked to.

He drove home carefully. Traffic violations were now severely punished. He wondered for a moment about Captain Joyce. How did he know about the loyalty testing? He worked in Supply. Maybe Joyce was undercover. Tyler shrugged to himself. Maybe not. With things the way they were now, anyone could turn in anyone else for suspicious behavior or comments. He’d have to be careful too. Watch what he said and to whom. He sighed. He missed the old days. How did they get to this point? It didn’t matter, he thought. We’re here now and we just have to survive it.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 7: Bill Brown Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 7: Bill Brown #9645990

Bill Brown, now known as 9645990, got up on command, went to the tray window and slid his empty breakfast tray and rice paper spoon inside then lined up along the cafeteria wall with the others in his cohort. It was time to go to work.

He’d been surprised when two weeks into this nightmare he’d been transferred from the facility he’d first been taken to and sent here.

At a command, they all began to march, single file, out of the cafeteria.

He thought he was going to be shipped to Africa or something but no. He was here, in a huge factory, where he’d been assigned to an engineering drafting shop. It made sense, he thought as they marched along. Why waste perfectly good brain power? The work wasn’t easy, but it was boring, though fairly matching what he’d been doing his whole adult life. Drafting had never been his favorite thing to do.

At his office the cohort stopped on command. The guard shouted out his number. He stepped out of line and saluted. A modified Nazi salute he had been horrified to learn the second day he’d been at the receiving facility. That first two weeks was an intensive course in learning that he was no longer a free man. The bruises had only faded a week ago. The cohort moved on and he went into his office. There were three other men in there, already at their drafting tables. No one looked up.

He sat down and picked up his Computer Aided Design pen without addressing the others. The cameras in the four corners of the ceiling made sure that they understood that while there was no guard in the room, they were being watched.

The first week was difficult. He’d never worked on 3-D CAD software, but much was the same as with the software he had used before so the learning curve wasn’t too big. After that, the work was dull. This week, according to specification, draw a gear. Actually, a different gear every day. No one told them what the purpose was of any of the drawings they completed. But he did know that everyone in the room was working on mechanical parts. No telling though, if they belonged to the same project.

That was just one of the things that nagged at him. Taking pride in his work before always entailed knowing what the big picture was. What the smaller parts fit into. Now, it was just this. A single drawing. He was already bored.

A chime rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and lined up at the door. A guard came and escorted them to an exercise yard. Bill had been surprised, the first day, when he realized they were being allowed outside. “Half an hour,” the guard had said. Some headed for a quarter-mile track where they began walking. Others for a weight area where they began lifting. There was some talk, but only about the weights or the weather. No other conversation.

One guy, number 9062579, introduced himself in a low voice. “Come with me. We’ll walk.”

Bill nodded and they headed to the track. “I’m Bill.”

“George. But never call me that. That’s a punishable offence.”

Bill nodded. “We get to do this every day?”

“Rain or shine.” George began swinging his arms around. “This helps with keeping limber after leaning over the desk all day.”

Bill did the same. “I was surprised how good breakfast was.”

“Sure. We do work, they feed us well. Gotta keep the farm animals in tip top shape.”

“What?” Bill stared at George.

George snorted. “That’s what we are now, you know. Animals. We earn our keep, we get treated well. If we don’t, well, I’ve seen many a man leave on a stretcher and not return.”

Bill didn’t know what to think about that. “Why?”

“Because good food, exercise, plenty of rest keeps us in good shape. I’ve lost forty pounds since I’ve been here. No booze, very little sugar—it’s the diet my doctor had been trying to get me to use for years.” He snorted again. “He was right. I feel better than I did when I graduated from college.”

“How long have you been here?”

“About six months.”

That’s when a whistle blew. A guard, back near the building pointed at them. George waved. “We gotta split up. They don’t like it when we talk together.”

With that he sped up, leaving Bill to trail behind. Since he was getting out of breath, he let George go and slowed down a bit. He thought about what he’d heard. He didn’t like the idea that they were considered farm animals. But everything to this point had surprised him.

Now, two week later, he pondered everything he knew so far. He knew he was in a Wagnall Aerospace Industries factory. Their logo was on everything. That he and the other men were slave labor was obvious. Cheaper, he realized, to keep the men healthy with good food and exercise, than to feed them poorly and have them get sick. Sick men didn’t produce well. He swung his arms around first in sync then as a windmill, then back the other way. George had been right. It helped with the back strain. And he could tell he was losing weight, even after two weeks.

But, was this going to be his life forever? Slave labor? Even if he did get good food and exercise, this isn’t all he wanted. He was only thirty-six years old. He missed Mara, and the kids. Maybe he could write them? This was really the first time he’d had time to think about more than surviving these new circumstances. Who could he ask? He’d try his cohort guard. That’s who they were supposed to go to with issues.

He took a breath and at the chime, started back to the building. Yes. He’d ask Officer Fernald. He already felt better.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 5 Duncan Angelson – Friday Flash Fiction Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 5: Duncan Angelson

After Andy McGuire left, Duncan got to work. He knew exactly why Mr. Joe Evans, The People’s Party leader, wanted to talk. There was much to do. Too soon, his secretary, Wendy Ackerman, buzzed. “Mr. Evans to see you, Sir.”

He punched the intercom button. “Send him in.”

As the door opened, Duncan stood and walked around the desk. “Joe. Good to see you.” He held out his hand.

Joe Evans strode in and shook hands with the Chief of Staff. “Good to see you, too, Duncan. It’s been too long. Emily says you and Monica need to come out to the farm for dinner.”

“Let us know the day and time, Joe. We’d love to come out.” He motioned to a loveseat in the middle of the room. “Have a seat. What can I do for you?”

Joe Evans sat down, his bulk nearly filling the loveseat.

“Drink?”

“Scotch. No ice.”

Duncan nodded and poured his best into a heavy, squat, cut-crystal glass. He poured one for himself then handed over the glass before sitting in the armchair across from a small, glass-topped coffee table.

Evans sipped, smacking his lips. “You know how to take care of a visitor, Duncan.”

Duncan smiled and put his lips to his drink, then placed it on the table. “I know you didn’t come all the way into Washington for a Scotch.”

“No.” Joe Evans sighed, drank again, and held the near empty glass in his lap. “You reading the Immaculata reports?”

“The summaries, of course. A full report when there’s something of interest, why?”

“Well, it’s a good thing, bad thing sort of issue. The Immaculata were very efficient. We had them started rounding up dissidents and activists before the President’s second term was only half over. And you know, by the time it ended, we’d put all of our people in place and had the electorate whipped into a frenzy about illegal aliens. Then we rolled back all the civil rights legislation since 1959. The next three years, we had anyone not a citizen and anyone with any Negro or Chink blood rounded up, or nearly so. This last year, anyone turned in by people they knew who had even the smallest amount of black, chink, or Hispanic blood was fair game.”

He laughed. “Damn but that marketing campaign was effective. Suspicion, greed, jealousy—all of it ramped up until we were working 24/7 on rounding people up.” He drank the last of his scotch and motioned, asking for another.

Duncan nodded and got up, taking the glass to his little dry bar. “So, what’s the problem?”

“It worked too well. The Immaculata are rounding up people now with so little taint in their blood that we’re damn close to making it up.” He took the glass from Duncan and drank some more. “We’re not sure what to do now.”

Duncan sat back in the armchair. “Are the people being turned in actually bad people? They complain about the president or the party?”

“No.” Joe Evans waved away the thought. “Matter of fact, a lot of them are party members and donated to the President’s reelection. Voted him President for Life, too.”

Duncan rubbed his cheek. He could feel the stubble already forming. “How about letting some of them go, then. You know, they were examined and found clean, politically correct. It might be time to show how fair the party is.”

For a moment, Evans rubbed his chin, nodding, as he thought that idea over. “Perhaps. I’ll take it to the committee.” He sipped, then changed the subject. “How’s the President?”

Duncan shook his head. “It’s like minding a child. But we knew that six years ago. How’s his wife?”

Evans sighed. “She’s happy to be in New York. Their girl is in that special school she needs. But Mrs. Margaret Masters wants to divorce. We can’t allow that.”

“Any particular reason? I mean other than she knows he’s a horndog?”

“She wants to be free to see other men. Understandable. She’s only thirty-two. But we can’t allow that.”

“What about if she sees men discretely? Would she go for that?” Duncan was thinking furiously. Maggie Masters knew the whole story. If she decided to spill the beans, that could cause a huge problem. Mainly for her. Duncan didn’t want that. He personally liked Maggie and her daughter, Bectie. It wouldn’t do for her to have an accident.

A slow head shake from Evans was the answer. Then he shrugged and drank another sip. “Maybe. I’ll take that to the committee too.” He sighed again. “We can play off anything that happens in the press, of course. Most of the media outlets know where their bread is buttered now. But there’s always a few reporters still willing to kick up a fuss.”

Duncan shrugged. “What about the President. I don’t think there’s enough hookers in the country to satisfy the lecher-in-chief.”

“Start bringing back the ones he started with. His dementia is far enough gone by now, and the girls all look the same anyway, he’ll never know.” Evans drained his glass and rose ponderously from the loveseat. He smoothed what little white hair he had into place. “The doc’s giving him a clean bill of health?”

“Yeah. As much as possible. Dementia has it’s health side effects, you know.”

Evans nodded. “Do what you have to. By the time he’s too sick for any appearances, we’ll have the entire country nailed down.” He turned to the door and took a step. “Oh.” He turned back. “The Eastern Federation wants a sit down on nuclear issues.”

“President Popov?”

“Right. When they rolled over Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Germany, they acquired a lot of material.”

“I’ll set something up.” Duncan walked Evans to the door, opened it and shook his hand. “Give me a few days.”

“Keep in touch.”

Duncan nodded and went back into his office as Evans waddled out of the secretary’s office. Nukes, he thought. Great.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 3 Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 3: Devon Brown

Devon trembled in the backseat of a monstrous black SUV beside his sister, Caitlin. The truck was so big, the officers had had to lift them both up to the back seat.  Both of them had their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Caitlin was crying, calling out, “Mommy, Mommy,” snot running down her face. That bothered him. His mother wouldn’t like it but what could he do?

He didn’t understand. Did Daddy do something wrong? Why’d they take him away? Why did the soldiers take him and Caitlin away? He slid a little closer to his sister so that they were side by side. What was going to happen? Where were they going? He was too short to see out of the windows. When he tried to crane up, all he could see were rooftops. He stopped when the soldier riding up front told him to sit back.

They drove for a long time. He was glad when Caitlin fell asleep, her little blond head against his shoulder. He was too upset to go to sleep. His hands were full of prickles, but he didn’t want to shift around, it would wake his sister. Every few minutes the soldier checked his mirror, watching Devon. It scared him, so he sat very still.

It seemed like a long time but finally the car pulled up to a gate. The driver’s window went down and a soldier stuck his head in to look in the backseat. “Go on,” he said, and the car went in. They came to a big building and the car stopped at the front door. The two soldiers got out and Caitlin woke up as the doors slammed shut.

“Devon?”

“We’re here,” he told her as the passenger doors opened at the same time. The driver pulled him out of the car as the other soldier pulled Caitlin out. Devon’s legs had fallen asleep along with his hands and he collapsed to the sidewalk, skinning his knees.

“Stand up, kid.” He pulled Devon up by the back of his t-shirt.

“My legs are asleep.”

“Great.” The soldier kept hold of Devon’s shirt and joined Caitlin and her guard at the door. They went in and nodded to the soldier at the desk near the door. He nodded back and they went across a lobby and down a hall. There were a lot of halls, Devon thought, and soon, he had no idea where they were of what was going on. They were taken to a place where people in white uniforms, like doctors, took them after the handcuffs were taken off.

The soldiers left and the aides made them undress. Devon had trouble. His hands didn’t want to work. One aide had to undress him. Devon didn’t like that but there was nothing he could do. They were sent into a shower together. Devon helped Caitlin wash her face and when they came out, they were given gray cotton pants and shirts with numbers on them to wear—and picked up and put in barber chairs. Devon didn’t think he needed a haircut, he’d just been a few days ago with his dad. The barber took clippers and ran them over his head. Horrified, he watched as they did the same to Caitlin. She began to cry and fight them. One of the aides grabbed her hands and told her to shut up. It was over in just a moment, her blonde hair scattered all over the floor.

They were escorted to another place and a doctor looked at them. Then another place where there were other kids, standing in lines. Girls in one and boys in another. Caitlin didn’t like that and started crying again, calling for Devon. An aide came down the line and slapped her and told her to shut up.

“No!” Devon yelled and began to go to her. An aide grabbed him by the arm, slapped him, and shoved him back into line so hard he fell. “Get up, kid.” And the aide walked away. Devon, shaking, stood up. He’d never been hit by an adult. Never. He didn’t know what to think. Caitlin cried quietly, watching him, as the line kept moving. She reached the desk first.

“Six years old,” the man said. He waved his hand and an aide led her away. She didn’t want to go and fought the aide, but it did no good. He dragged her, screaming, “Devon,” until they left the room. Then it was his turn.

“Eight years old,” the man said as he checked a tablet. He waved and an aide took Devon away in a different direction than Caitlin had went.

“What about my sister?” he asked.

“Shut up,” was the only answer.

They entered a room where there were other boys sitting at desks. Devon saw that the boys sat, hands folded on their desks, eyes straight ahead. Not one boy turned to see him come in.

The man in the room checked his tablet, then nodded at the aide, who left.

“Boy. Pay attention. I’m Mr. George. You are now called 9280970. Remember that. It’s the number on your shirt. Say it.” He stood, staring at Devon.

“9280970,” Devon said in a voice that cracked.

“Good. There is no talking unless you are asked a direct question. Is that understood?”

Devon nodded.

“Do what you are told and it will go easy on you. If you disobey, or don’t follow directions, you’ll be punished. Do you understand?”

Devon nodded again. He tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. This place was scary.

“Sit over there, Row four, chair six. That is your place.”

Devon nodded and walked over to the seat.

“Hands folded on the desk. Eyes to the front.”

Devon did as he was told. This is not good, he remembered his father always saying. He was right.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 2 Capt Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Just by happenstance, I recently picked up a copy of Trevayne, written by Robert Ludlum. In his introduction, he mentioned that he wrote the book after the Nixon Watergate scandal. In part he says of Watergate: “Here was the government, the highest of our elected and appointed officials entrusted with the guardianship of our system, not only lying to the people but collecting millions upon millions of dollars to perpetuate their lies and thus the controls they believed were theirs alone to exercise.” He goes on to point out that their meaning was to keep the country theirs. Not yours or mine, or even the neighbors across the street or across town. Only theirs. “The rest of us were somehow neither relevant nor competent. They knew better, therefore the lies had to continue and the coffers of ideological purity kept full so that the impure could be blitzkrieged by money and buried at the starting gates of political contests.”

It was like that during Watergate.In my humble opinion, it is even more so now.

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 2: Captain Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn closed the electronic notebook after Bill Brown was taken away. On either side of him, Lieutenant Daryll Moss and Lieutenant Lee Woden, stood up. They’d been at the interviews all afternoon.

“Why do they all say the same thing? I want to slap every one of them.” Moss shoved his chair under the table.

“I hear ya.” Woden did the same with his chair and they headed for the door. “You’d think one of them could say something original.”

“Captain Flynn?” Moss stopped a moment at the door. “More of this tomorrow?”

“Yep.” Flynn tucked the notebook into his briefcase. “The round-up are continuing.”

“Jesus Christ.” Woden opened the door. “Who knew so many non-whites were in the country. Like that last guy. Didn’t even know he was black?” Woden shook his head. “No wonder the country’d gone to hell in a hand basket.”

The officers left the room. Flynn headed for his office. “See you tomorrow, guys.”

“See ya,” the two offices said as they went the other direction.

Flynn knew the statistics, a good portion of the country had genetic markers for other races than Caucasian. That poor bastard Brown was turned in by a neighbor for unpatriotic activities. Flynn saw from the report it was bullshit, but the genetics didn’t lie. So he’d been rounded up. Flynn sighed to himself. Cameras were everywhere so there was no show of questions or remorse allowed about carrying out commands from headquarters.

At his office he locked the notebook in the safe, it had records of thousands of people in it, and checked for end of day messages. Nothing important, he was relieved to see, so he headed home.

The next morning, he was in a meeting with the Commander, 43rd Mobilization and Relocation Squadron and other squadron department heads. It was near the end of the meeting and Flynn was feeling thankful nothing strange was relayed today. Since President Master’s had declared marshal law and declared himself President for Life, things had been crazy. Hopefully it would settle down now.

Commander Green cleared his throat. Flynn looked up. That always signaled bad news. “Gentlemen.” The commander took a breath. “Any remaining female officers and enlisted in your departments are hearby issued orders to report to Personnel for honorable discharge.”

All around the table, each department head’s notebook began chiming. “Those are the orders. Share that information with your female subordinates and send them on their way. They’ll have a week to clear base quarters if they reside there. Personnel will take care of everything.”

Flynn was relieved. The Immaculata had been male only from the start, the seventh year of President Master’s legal presidency. He’d hate to face good subordinates with that news. The other people didn’t look happy but said nothing. There was nothing to say.

He wasn’t so relived at the next announcement.

“Lastly, the transport company we’ve been using for prisoner transport has lost their contract. Now we’ll be using Weyland Industries beginning Monday. They’ll also be responsible for prisoner feeding. You’ll find new forms available to you starting Friday. Call Contracting if you have any issues. That will be all. All hail President Marshall.”

“All hail,” each man at the table responded in unison. Then they all rose and left the room.

Outside the command admin, Captain Dean Joyce caught up with Flynn. He checked the hall around them and in a soft voice asked, “Isn’t Weland Industries owned by the President’s sister?”

Flynn gave a short nod. “Yep.”

“Isn’t that nepotism? At the least, conflict of interest?”

Flynn gave Joyce a look, eyebrow raised.

Joyce took the hint. “None of my business, I guess. I just hope they feed these poor bastards better than the last company. I wouldn’t feed that swill to my dad’s pigs.”

A short shake of the head was Flynn’s response. “Seventeen hundred calories is the regulation. Doesn’t say anything about the gourmet level.”

“I guess.” Joyce dropped back and turned right into his corridor.

Flynn agreed with the guy, but he wasn’t going to say so. Too many cameras and out in public spaces especially, microphones too. He was sure his office was bugged. He was also sure his car was too. No matter. He’d joined the Army fifteen years ago. He’d pledged to support and defend the country every four years since then. He’d been chosen to join the Immaculata. An elite force, he’d been told. Part of Homeland Security, helping to combat attacks against the United States.

And so it seemed, the first couple of years. They’d rounded up several groups identified by the FBI and the CIA as fomenting dissent and radicalizing youth, especially in urban areas. He thought he’d been doing some good. Now, this wasn’t what he’d signed up for but there didn’t seem to be any way out. His own wife was Army. While he didn’t have any female members, his wife worked in Communications, the squadron commander, for Pete’s sake. Dinner was going to be unpleasant.

At his office he reviewed the interviews for the day. He was a third of the way through the list when a name popped out at him. Zuri Flynn. His breath caught in his throat. It was his sister-in-law. His heart sank. Her family was Jewish. His brother was going to be crushed. He loved Zuri.

Flynn closed his eyes. Thank God there were no children. That would be too much. Why did they put her in his interview room? A message, he was sure. If it could happen to his family, it could happen to anyone. He leaned over and grabbed his trashcan and vomited. Better to get it out of his system now. He wouldn’t be able to offer any emotion in the room. Zuri would be devastated.

Thank you for reading.

The Home, Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 2 here.

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts from Deposit Photos

The Home, Part 3

Ralph and Mike waved. I waved back.

In the doctor’s office the guard motioned me to sit down.

Jenkins nodded to me. “Mrs. Nathan.”

“Doctor.” He wasn’t too bad as the aliens went. At least he could speak clearly.

“You took a walk this afternoon.”

I waited. Let him ask me a question. I wasn’t going to give up anything I didn’t have to.

He fiddled with his pen.

If he thought I’d be uncomfortable with a long silence, he was wrong. I had been a counsellor and knew all the tricks of the trade. I folded my hands in my lap and waited in the blessed quiet.

The clock on the wall behind him ticked off the seconds. Loud in the quiet room.

“Why did you leave the dayroom, Laurie?”

Score one for me. He spoke first. And now he was trying the friendly familiarity tact. When I entered I was Mrs. Nathan. “What do you mean?” I put on an innocent face. I was having fun for a change.

“The staff tell me they found you in your room.”

I shrugged. “I don’t recall.”

He tapped his pen on the desk top and took a deep breath. “Now, Laurie. Let’s not be difficult. What’s the problem today? It’s not like you to be a trouble-maker.”

“I could use another blanket on my bed.” If I had to be in here, let’s see if I could get something out of it.”

“Perhaps you were confused?”

“I’m not confused. I’m old.”

Jenkins wrote a note in his book, glancing up at me as he wrote. “We’ll see about another blanket.”

Well! I was surprised at the quick capitulation. “Thank you.”

He nodded and checked his file. “You’ve been with us six months now. How are you enjoying your stay?”

I did my best not to grind my teeth. Enjoying my stay? Did he think this was a resort? “I’d rather be home.” Who knows. Maybe he’d listen.

“Hmmm.” He flipped though the file. “It says here you were having difficulty at home alone.”

“No. I wasn’t.”

It was his turn to shrug. “Your son thought so, Laurie. You were falling, unable to keep your home tidy.”

“That’s not a crime, last I knew.”

“But it is a health and safety issue. Your son was very worried about you.”

“So I can check out at any time?”

His head slowly shook. “I’m afraid not. Your son signed you in. Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. I was furious with Stan. I told him it was just a cold. I was fine but he insisted that I needed full-time care. I had been helpless because I’d made him my health proxy after my husband died. For just in case. Now I was here. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“You’re seventy-eight, Laurie. It’s time for you to relax and let others take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.” I clenched my hands into fists. He didn’t answer and that made me even more furious.

“We can’t have you wandering around, Laurie. I think a few micrograms of benzodiazepine would be appropriate. To keep you calm.”

“I’m calm enough.”

Jenkins nodded but pushed a button on his phone. The door opened and the goon who’d dragged me in here came in and stood behind my chair.

“Carl. Please take Mrs. Nathan back to the dayroom. There’ll be a new prescription for her in the file.”

Carl, if that was its real name, put a hand on my shoulder. My skin crawled. The interview did not end the way I had hoped.

“Laurie, we’ll talk again.”

I snorted. Some talk. I stood up as Carl squeezed my shoulder. I jerked it away form him and marched out of the office ahead of the goon. I plopped into my chair. When the goon left, Edna, Ralph, and Mike leaned over to look at me.

“What happened,” Edna whispered just loud enough to be heard over the noise box.

“I lost. The so-called Doctor Jenkins prescribed something to keep me calm.”

Ralph looked horrified. Mike and Edna were concerned. “Oh, no,” Edan cried out.

I had my arms crossed in front of me to control my shaking. I didn’t want to end up like Ralph, drooling and mindless most of the day. “My own fault, walking in there with an attitude.”

Mike asked, “What did he say?”

“He said I can’t sign myself out, for one thing.” My knee started bouncing. “I was sick when my son signed me in. I’m fine now. I could go home.” The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. What was wrong with Stan, signing me into this pit?

Edna put a hand on my arm. “I’m so sorry, Laurie.”

I hated the comfort her hand on my arm gave me. I wanted to be angry. “Can you see that all of the staff are aliens?” I asked it suddenly. I wanted confirmation that they saw what I did.

All three of them looked around in alarm.

“Shh.” Mike put a finger over his lips. “They’ll hear!”

Ralph looked sick. I wondered if he was going to throw up.

“So you see it, too?”

They all nodded but were keeping their eyes down.

“We need to do something,” I said.

If anything, Ralph looked even more sick.

“Do what?” Edna asked. “We’re helpless in here.”

Mike and Ralph nodded.

“Crap!” I put a hand on my knee to keep it from jumping up and down. “The first thing we have to do is stop taking their miserable drugs. They’re making us stupid.”

Ralph brightened. He was always better in the afternoon. “How?”

I grinned at him. “I don’t know. They’re pretty diligent about making us swallow those pills.”

“We’d have to make sure we act as though we took them.” Edna stared at the ceiling.

“Docile.” Mike nodded. “Not too active.”

“But then what?” Ralph asked.

“We get out of here. I’ve had enough.”

All three nodded.

I sat back in my chair. We had a team. Now we needed a plan.

Return next week for Part 4.

Quartz: Part 13 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

It was two months later that her parents arrived by stage. Mary met them at the hotel then brought them by Mrs. Estrada’s carriage to Mrs. Estrada’s. Three days later, the entire town turned out to Mrs. Estrada’s for the wedding.

“What changed your mind, child?” Mrs. Estrada asked in a quiet moment in Mary’s room.

“He told me how he felt.” Mary wiped tears from her eyes. “He’s a good man, Cassie.”

“I know he is, chick.”

“He hates the killing. He blames the gold.”

Cassie Estrada nodded. “I understand. But between you and Mr. Talbot?”

Mary chuckled. “I would never. Mr. Talbot was being polite. So was I. He’s a gambler. There would never be anything.”

“Would Zeke know that?”

Mary sighed. “I’m sorry for that. But Zeke was reluctant, I think. Never thinking he was good enough. He needed to feel that he’d won.”

Mrs. Estrada shrugged. “A close thing, that kind of game. You could have lost.”

“I know.” Mary wiped an eye. “It was close. But Zeke needed a push.”

That afternoon the local preacher married them in Mrs. Estrada’s flower garden. The party went on long into the night.

Two days later, Mary and Zeke waved her parents off on the stage back to Santa Rosa.

Zeke wrapped Mary’s arm in his. “The bank transfer is complete. Are we agreed on San Francisco?”

Mary smiled up at him. “I am. That’s where we need to be, Zeke. A nice ranch outside of the city. It’s green and full of water there.”

Zeke grinned back. “Yes. We’ll raise fine horses there.”

“And children!” Mary punched him lightly in the arm.

“And children.” He laughed and held Diva’s head while Mary mounted. Yes. California. Well away from the gold dreams. That’s what he wanted.

End.

Words: 299

Thank you for reading this serial. I hope you liked it. By now it should be available as a paperback and ebook at the on-line bookstores of your choice.

Quartz: Part 12 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

Adding to his misery, he’d left the bodies where they were and left Woolsey and Brokaw to their own devices as he hid in his tent for the rest of the night. He wasn’t proud of it but he’d reached the end of his ability to deal with the death. It was midday before he came out, sleepless and heartsick.

His hope that the two mining men would have dealt with the bodies was overly optimistic. The four lay where they’d died but the mining men were squatting, ignoring the bodies, around the fire, their interminable cans of beans heating beside the fire. Zeke swallowed his earnest desire to smash the both of them with the nearby shovel for their disregard of human life and offered a pale greeting. “Mornin’”

“Mr. Stanford. Greetings from a great day,” Woolsey offered. “We reigned supreme in the end. A fine Arizona morning.”

Zeke supposed it was and walked to the shovel he’d left by the arista. “So it is. I’ll get to burying these men.”

“What matter!” Brokaw waved his mug of coffee. They’re dead and gone. Let the crows have them.

Zeke looked to the sky. Indeed, the crows and ravens were already circling. If the men hadn’t been there, the birds would have already descended. “It’s not Christian.” It was all he could offer. He’d held a hand in their deaths after all, so he couldn’t be all condemning. “It’s right we bury them.”

Woolsey sighed. It was clear the man thought Zeke a weak. “Very well.” He rose and tossed the remains of his cup of coffee into the fire and pulled the can of beans away. “Best get to it then.”

The burying of four bodies made a long day and at the end, Zeke had nothing to scribe into the wooden crosses for any of the men except Delbert but Outlaw One, Outlaw Two and Outlaw Three. That made him even more sad than before. What about their families? Who would mourn these men?

In the meantime, the two mining men talked about nothing but the richness of Zeke’s claim. They rode out the next day talking about ounces per ton, and the method of transport. Zeke rode ahead so he couldn’t hear them. Scouting he called it and blamed the Apache attack he’d suffered weeks ago. Really, he just couldn’t stand the sound of them any longer. He missed the days of riding on his own. Working on his own.

When they got into town, he bid them farewell and rode out into the chaparral. He needed to get some quiet. Two days later, he rode into Mrs. Estrada’s. Cesar hurried from the barn. “Mr. Zeke! Are you all right? We were so worried when we heard the mining men were back but you were gone!”

Zeke dismounted. More guilt piling up. “Sorry, Cesar. I just needed to get their voices out of my head.”

Cesar nodded. “It’s good you are back. Miss Mary is so worried.”

Zeke closed his eyes. Of course Mary was worried. What was he thinking. “I’ll make it up, Cesar. Thank you.” For once, he let Cesar take Butters and lead him into the barn while he went to the house. He remembered his manners and was doing his best to beat the dust from his clothes when Mary raced down the steps and slammed into him in a huge hug.

“Zeke! Zeke! I’ve been so worried.” She hugged him so hard he didn’t think he could breathe. That’s when she slapped him in the face making him stagger. “What do you think you were doing! You disappeared without a word. I’ve been worried sick.” She advanced on him until he retreated across the yard to avoid her wrath. She was like the stories of the Norse Valkyrie, avenging goddess, hair flying in the breeze, full of fire and ice. He’d never seen anyone more beautiful.

“I’m sorry. Sorry.” He held out his hands in supplication, trying to hold off her anger.

“Sorry doesn’t make it right!” She crossed her arms, breath coming fast from her anger. “I was worried sick. You just disappeared. The sheriff has men out looking for you!”

“I apologize. I’ll apologize to the sheriff, too. Mary. It’s been a hard week. Will you forgive me?”

She smoothed her loose tendrils of hair back as though her hair angered her as well. He wondered that it didn’t come out by the roots. “Very well. But you’d better have a good explanation.”

“I do.” He convinced her to walk with him and they wandered across Mrs. Estrada’s little ranch. First, feet apart, then closer. By the time they were by the stream, they were hand in hand. By the time the supper bell rang, they had reconciled.

Words: 798

Quartz: Part 11 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

The next day started early. The men seemed eager, for a change, to get started. It was a hike up to the mine. Once there, he stopped and looked around. With any luck at all, this would be the last time he would climb up here. The view was of rolling hills, studded with alligator juniper and shrub oak. As the mining men examined the entrance, Zeke watched a javalina and her juvenile offspring trot, single file, across the prairie.

“You mind if we go in?”

“Go ahead,” Zeke said. “See what you’re payin’ for.”

He sat down and enjoyed the view as they went in. The sweat from the climb cooled his back as he wiped his face with his bandana. It seemed strange to be showing people his mine. He’d kept it secret for so long.

A noise behind him made him turn. Were the men done already?

He was face to face with a gun barrel. When he raised his eyes, it was the man from the alley, the night of the dance.

“Ha! The look on your face. Thought you were done with me, didn’t ya?”

Three more men crept down the hillside on each side of the mine entrance. Zeke could hardly form a coherent thought. Weren’t they supposed to be in jail in Globe?

The man waved his gun. “Get over there, out of sight of the entrance.” Zeke slowly got up and moved to the spot indicated. The other three men took position next to the entrance, out of sight of the two who would come out. Zeke eyed his rifle, lying on the ground where he’d been sitting. The man holding him at gunpoint picked it up and tossed it down the slope. “Just take it easy, there, son. No sense getting shot.”

Zeke agreed with him there. What was this guy’s name? “Delbert. You don’t have to do this.”

Delbert laughed. “Shut up. On your knees.” He moved behind Zeke. “You just keep quiet now. No callin’ out to your friends.”

Zeke felt helpless. He wasn’t friends with the mining men but he didn’t want to see them shot. “How’d you escape?”

“None of your business. Shut up.”

They waited, the sun beating down. Zeke could feel a trickle of sweat run down his spine. Could he warn the mining men somehow?

Delbert jabbed him with the gun barrel. “No ideas. I’ll shoot you first.”

Zeke guessed his thoughts were obvious. All he could think about now was Mary. Would she ever know what happened? Eventually. The coordinates were on the claim. Mr. Markum would send people out if he didn’t return, wouldn’t he?

He looked up. He could hear Woolsey and Brokaw talking as they came out. They were feet outside the entrance when they noticed Zeke on his knees, Delbert behind him.

“Howdy boys.” Delbert pointed at them as they stopped.

His partners moved behind the two mining men. Guns pointed at their backs.

“That’ll be far enough.” Delbert jabbed Zeke. “Stand up and get over there with them.”

Once Zeke was there Delbert said, “Now drop those gunbelts and kick them over here.”

Zeke watched the mining men slowly unbuckle the belts. Didn’t they have any tricks? He sighed as the belts hit the dirt and they kicked them over. Apparently not.

“Tie ‘em up.”

Zeke could feel his hands pulled back and tied behind him. The rope was biting into his wrists. “Let’s get them back to camp.”

The walk back was difficult. It was hard to keep his balance with his hands behind him. Once at camp, Delbert’s men tied the three of them to a tree and proceeded to explore the camp. One went for wood and soon they had a fire going and had Zeke’s food out and being cooked.

As night fell, Zeke worked the rope on his wrists. He was hungry but worse, he was thirsty. And angry. Not only was he tied up in his own camp, but they hadn’t even cared for the horses. He could hear Butters whinnying in complaint.

“Shut that horse up!”

“He’s thirsty and hungry.” Zeke felt he had to call out. He didn’t want his horse shot.

“Shut up, boy.”

“Feed the horses, Dan.”

“Why do I have to do it?”

“You want a ride out of here, don’t ya?”

There was mumbling Zeke couldn’t hear but the man was getting up to do what he was told.

“We could use some water,” Zeke called out.

Delbert laughed. “I’ll bet you could, boy.” The others with him laughed as well.

Zeke sighed and settled back.

“Nice try, son,” Woolsey said.

“You two have any ideas?”

“Nope,” Brokaw said. “Never been in this situation before.”

Great, Zeke thought. He continued to work at the ropes. His hands were slick. Blood, more’n likely, but he continued. Maybe they’d get slippery enough to get out of the ropes.

Eventually, Delbert’s men lay quiet around the dying fire. Zeke watched and worked. It seemed the ropes were getting looser. Twice he’d jerked awake, having fallen asleep as he worried the ropes.

The night sky wheeled around, and Zeke finally broke a hand loose. The moon had risen, and he could see blood dripping from his fingertips. He put a hand on Woolsey’s shoulder. “Stay quiet.” He untied Woolsey, then did the same with Brokaw. They wriggled out of the rope wrapping them around the tree. Zeke’s leg was asleep, and he could hardly stand on it as the prickles made his leg feel like ants were crawling all over it.

The three crept up on the sleeping men. Zeke went for Delbert, a rock in hand. Woolsey had a rock as well and Brokaw had a broken tree limb. Just as Zeke reached Delbert, the man rolled over in his sleep, muttering something. Terrified, Zeke smashed the man’s head. Woolsey and Brokaw did the same.

Zeke sank to his knees and did a sudden turn. The bile was a bitter as his anguish.

Words: 1004

Quartz: Part 10 – Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 1 Here.

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Zeke seldom traveled with others and Woolsey’s and Brokaw’s incessant talking was annoying. If it had been interesting or informative, it would have been different but the two just traded tales of saloons and fights and loose women. Dirty jokes figured heavily into their repartee. From their talk, it seemed they didn’t travel together all the time. And neither man seemed to be married. Neither of them ever mentioned a wife or children. What kind of life was that?

They stopped at midday to rest the horses and eat a bite. Neither man had thought to bring a lunch, so Zeke shared his ham biscuits. He was surprised they’d remembered to fill their canteens.

Just before sundown, Zeke stopped at his usual camping spot, off of the trail, just for safety. The two men were about to sit and make themselves comfortable when Zeke realized what they were doing. He suggested they take care of their horses, then for Brokaw to gather wood for a fire. They made a bit of fun at him for being bossy but did as they were told. Zeke made sure the horses were hobbled properly. He did not want to have to go looking for horses in the morning.

When he finished, he was pleasantly surprised to see that the pair had managed to light a fire. They were pulling cans from their saddle bags.

Zeke pulled his small cast iron skillet from his bag and a couple slices of bacon. He got those frying then pulled a coffee pot out and dropped in a few spoonsful of coffee. One of the reasons he camped here was a small spring nearby. He filled the pot and his canteen and put the pot on the fire. The bacon done, he added a little flour to the grease, stirring it all around and then piling it into a biscuit shape. He let that cook and pulled out his cup and spread his bedroll on the ground.

The two others had opened their cans and set them beside the fire. They watched Zeke with interest. “How’d you learn to do that,” Brokaw asked as Zeke formed his pan biscuit.

“My ma showed me before I left home. The bacon fat already has salt in it.” He shrugged. “Not as good as baked, but it fills the stomach.”

“Smart.” Woolsey checked his can. He stirred it up from the bottom, losing a little bit of the canned beans over the side. “Dang.”

They ate, mostly the two mining company men talking about fancy restaurants they’d been to in Denver and Tucson. Zeke grunted in spots to let them know he was still awake. After he ate he cleaned his pan, added water, then beans. He used the cast iron lid to cover it and put it beside his bedroll.

“What’s that for?” Woolsey asked.

“Breakfast.”

“Smart.” Brokaw nudged Woolsey with a grin. “The boy’s smart.”

Zeke sighed silently and after banking the fire, lay down to sleep. It was going to be a long trip.

The next two days went the same as the first. By the time they made Zeke’s permanent camp, he was thoroughly sick of his two companions. A quick check made it clear to him that nothing had been disturbed. He gave the two men his tent. Anything to separate him from them for even a short while. Zeke showed them the creek and mentioned that he had panned some gold there. But it was up in the hills that the mine was.

For the first time the men looked competent. They waded out into the stream and probed around a little, muttering to themselves and each other. They peered up at the hills and still talking, gestured possible water flows and rock formations. Zeke washed up, and went back to camp, collecting fire wood as he went. By the time it was dark and the two men had returned, the fire was going, the horses had been cared for and Zeke was making his dinner.

They walked around the camp, admiring the layout and his arrastra. They asked informed questions about how he’d searched out the gold, and nodded with understanding as he talked about the potato and mercury trick. While they ate, they told him about other miners and how they’d done their work. Finally, Zeke thought, something useful from these two. Maybe the Apache don’t have to kill them. The evening passed quickly, and Zeke bid the two good night as they retired to the tent.

Words: 755